Of return to the untried

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 01 May 2018 10:33:23


By Vijay Phanshikar,




Paths often diverge

When you walk into the woods
Inviting return

- A haiku by Mairi Neil

Yes, paths do diverge -- often! Don’t they?
As one starts taking baby steps when one is a toddler, the steps, not the path, go in
different directions. Then, even when there is no path well-charted, one walks on, on weak legs. Then, in those early moments, walking by itself is the path. For, it represents the journey that one would take as life would
proceed. And as the toddler one moves on wobbly legs, he -- she -- keeps looking around, feeling enchanted by everything that world has: The motifs on the carpet, the crockery on the table, the colourful saree mother wears, the sounds of cymbals from a near-by temple, the crying of another baby...! He, then, wants to reach those attractions (not distraction, of course), but can’t decide where to go, or how to change the direction. He falls. He rises again. Starts walking again. On an uncharted path. He does not know at all that paths diverge.

That is sheer bliss -- not to know that paths diverge, or paths have a necessary attribute of diverging, of opting for different directions. So, the toddler goes on and on, in a wayward, yet forward, manner.

Soon, he loses that freedom, however. He grows and grows up. And as he does that, he realises that there are many paths from which he has to choose one for himself. As he
proceeds into the labyrinthine space called life, the toddler of yesterday realises that now he has to make the choice -- of path, of the direction he should take.

The real trouble begins at this point. For, the toddler of yesterday, having lost his freedom to go wayward (yet forward), now has to choose only one path. For, he is not two persons. He is one person, and has to take only one path.

Life, however, has many paths. Often, one comes to a point where the paths bifurcate, trifurcate, ready to take one into different directions. And then, out of choice -- at
times willing and at times forced -- one opts for one path. Then follows a journey -- often dogged, often weary, often full of anxiety, often lonely ...!
On that journey, there do come many points when one stands frustrated, tired, bored, willing to give up. At such moments then, one’s mind darts back to the paths that one had not chosen at the point of divergence. ‘Oh, all those paths looked green’, one recalls in a haze of memories. At those moments, then one feels tempted to blame oneself for having chosen a wrong path. ‘Oh, that path to the right had felt great then. Then, why did not I choose that one?!’ -- one rues.

It is at that moment, or at many such moments, one feels tempted to trace back one’s steps and return to the point of divergence, and then re-opt for the one path one had discarded way back in time, in life.

But then, such is the story of common people, ordinary mortals. The adventurous ones among us have yet another mindset. They feel and think differently. They have the urge to keep trying the new, the unknown. So, even after having travelled successfully on one path, they want to return to the point of divergence and try other paths -- just for the thrill, just for the newness, just for the challenge the unknown poses.
That is the reason the poet writes:
Paths often diverge
When you walk into the woods
Inviting return

Life, however, is a tricky affair. Many times, the return can be deceptive, the hope -- of better life -- busted. On a few occasions, the return may not have any other metaphor than sheer joy of exploration.
Nevertheless, the points of divergence
in life’s journey, has a silent, hidden invitation to return and test and taste anew the promise of life.
That’s life, my dear!